Poet-activist Abhishek Anicca looks to trigger conversations about disability with spoken word poem
Bilingual poet and writer Abhishek Anicca prefer to perform live but the Covid lockdown has put an end to those prospects. He is now sharing his work on social media platforms hoping to continue doing what he loves best – provoke meaningful conversations about disability.
“When we say live, you say inspire.
When we say access, you say adjust.
When we say voice, you say charity.
When we say sex, you say not necessary”
Power and truth rings through every line of Abhishek Anicca’s spoken word poem Grammar/Vyakran. The poem, released recently across social media platforms, addresses the stereotypes and terminologies around disability.
A bilingual poet, writer, performer and activist, Abhishek has released Grammar/Vyakran in a lyric video form where he is heard reading out the lines in Hindi and English as the words play out in text. Over this plays out the music of Argentine composer Gustavo Santaolalla.
“It’s been a year since I last performed spoken word and I miss a live audience”, says Abhishek, a research scholar at the Delhi University. “Moreover, I haven’t been able to get my hands on the video of my last performance. So, while I was unwell and lying in bed, I thought I will play around with the idea of making a lyric video for the last spoken word piece”.
Abhishek is sharing Grammar/Vyakran across social media platforms hoping this will help trigger meaningful conversations about disability.
Work addresses stereotypes
My journey of performing poetry started over three years ago. As a disabled and chronically ill person I wanted to talk about disability so I could open discussions about disability. I have performed at malls, NGOs, etc., and that experience has been fulfilling. PI have met people who have connected to what I say as there are common experiences like isolation that cut across disability. – Abhishek Anicca, Bilingual poet-writer-performer
Abhishek started writing about disability after 2010, soon after he graduated from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) Mumbai. “I had scoliosis and it started affecting my health at that point. I started thinking about my own disability”. This had an impact on his academics as well as activism. The anger over the labelling and stereotyping people with disabilities are subject to comes across in his words.
“Good morning, today we will call you differently abled
Good morning, today we will call you specially abled
No, No, No
How can you decide what we call you
If you were capable enough
Then wouldn’t you be normal?
Then wouldn’t you be alright?”
Abhishek is clear that he seeks to connect with everyone – disabled as well as non-disabled – through his performances.
“Last year my performance at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), Delhi went viral and a lot of visually impaired people connected with me, which otherwise wouldn’t have happened. I tell my story in a way that able bodied people relate to it and start looking into how people with disabilities are treated in society”.
He keeps his poetry bilingual so that Hindi and English-speaking audiences can connect. He has made sure his video is inclusive as well for people with vision and hearing disabilities.
“The next step is to make videos with sign language interpretation”, says Abhishek. “I always made sure there was a sign language interpreter present for my live performances. This way I can connect to people across disability types, with people who face social isolation and are made to feel that we are all in some way different”.
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